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Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8
“The complexities of the characters are taking a back seat to resolve some uncomplicated problems.”
This is an odd episode for Mob. What’s usually been a good balance between action and progress, this week it feels like the show is spinning its wheels. Stakes are introduced and undercut.We’re made privy to most of the villain roster (who get little more than a name) and all three fights in the episode are complete curb-stomps. The animation doesn’t stop, continuing to be the top-shelf affair we’ve come to expect, but the narrative definitely feels like it’s slacking.
Terada, voiced by the delightfully grizzled Fumihiko Tachiki, is the first of the new villain camp. The over-confident Esper makes a show of himself, boasts and we cut from Koyama praising his fighting prowess. He espouses faith in Terada’s caution and certainty that his colleague will defeat Mob. We then cut to him having been defeated off-screen. It’s a fairly strong joke, but it’s kind of the only one in the episode. We get to see his actual skills a bit later, but he’s flattened by Shigeo in a few seconds after Teruki gets a brief chance to stretch his legs.
The bit that I like here, although it feels a bit out of place, is Ritsu’s interaction with the Awakening Lab kids. He tries to assuage their fears, keep them focused and goes out of his way not to hurt their pride when it comes to their nearly useless abilities. After the last few episodes though, he feels a bit too cool and collected. Ritsu has been boiling over with years of repressed envy and anxiety, full to bursting with the negative emotions he’s held back for so long. It feels strange for him to have leveled off when only a few hours ago he was finally able to confront Shigeo and flex his psychic muscles before his brother. It could just be him settling back into the comfortable role of acting as the caring brother, but with the rest of the episode feeling so empty, it stands out.
Mob’s desire to better himself without relying on his psychic powers and Ritsu’s obsession with gaining what he lacks, apathetic towards the wealth of more standard talents he possesses, intertwine to form an interesting dynamic between brothers. We don’t really get any of that this week. Ritsu has cooled off after being forced into a life-threatening situation, placing his neuroses aside to focus on a concrete and attainable goal. Shigeo, on the other hand, is allowed to flaunt his powers with no restrictions. His vow to not use his psychic powers on people are put aside, necessarily, for self-defense and with the equally simple goal of rescuing Ritsu. The complexities of the characters are taking a back seat to resolve some uncomplicated problems. This isn’t inherently bad, but Mob Psycho 100 has been fairly dense up to this point, which might be why this episode feels empty.
One last thing I’d like to note: Koyama coming at Shigeo with everything he has and his immediate failure was fun. Mob has no time for this. It was a delight to watch him be bounced around like a tennis ball in a squash fight that would feel at home in One Punch Man. I just hope the show finds its emotional footing again as we go into the home stretch, so the fights can once again be more than just fights.
“This is simply another episode of Mob Psycho”
After all of the empty bluster of last week’s sakuga fest, here we are at Mob Psycho 9. It’s a middling twenty-two minutes that we’ve come to expect from the show’s off episodes with small sprinkles of creative surprise on top, except this time our offbeat heroes are fighting against a shadowy organization called Claw and Ritsu’s contrived angst has been voided due to circumstance. The serious tone of last week’s broadcast is replaced with self-aware gags and false intensity, leaving me less offended yet more apathetic.
One moment that stands out is an almost studio Trigger-like bout of meta-humor as Ritsu is unable to remember the names of the four other amateur psychics he’s trapped with. I’ve never been much of a fan of this style of ironic comedy, but fortunately it leads to a reintroduction of the mentioned pawns, allowing them the opportunity to feel a little more alive as they cooperate to escape the facility. Unfortunately I doubt their relevancy will last, considering the show’s track record of neglecting its ever-growing minor cast.
There are some things to appreciate this episode: right after the title card there’s a rather nice scene of Terada, the zebra-striped villain-of-the-week, being driven around by some nameless grunts in a silver coupe. This cruise is punctuated by some lovely Shinya Ohira-esque effects animation with smoothly sketched wind streams and street light afterglows that pass by in a highlight almost too short to notice. Even the static image in this introductory scene depicting Koyama and Mob’s battle from last episode has a certain loose fluidity to it that I found myself drawn to. Miyo Sato gets two cuts that are as excellent as usual, making their respective scenes far more effective at instilling dread than they have any right to be. The way her second scene smears the bodies of our five kidnapped espers and morphs into a single pair of piercing eyes is especially genius.
Perhaps my expectations have been lowered from all of the frustrations I’ve had with the most recent episodes but I’m mostly indifferent this week. This is simply another episode of Mob Psycho, trying as hard as it can to make something compelling out of what is ultimately lackluster. As excellent as it is being a commercial platform for so many idiosyncratic talents, it continuously fails to support their monumental efforts with even decent writing. I would prefer for this arc to end within the next couple of episodes and allow a chance for something more interesting to happen before the finale, but with so many members of Claw left to defeat I’m doubting the possibility.
“…Mob Psycho is best viewed actively, combing over scenes and sakuga is really what the show is about. “
There is really only one thing to talk about this episode, and that’s the cut by Takashi Mitani. He’s a fairly new animator who has obviously taken a few of Yutaka Nakamura’s cuts to heart (notice the cubed debris). What’s really impressive with this cut is the surreal whip-like motion that the camera is tethered too (see 0:19) and the path of movement Teruki takes.
Using cubes as debris actually works really well in this kind of cut. With the camera actively moving the eye is naturally drawn to the movement, which results in some of the finer details being glossed over. With the cube shaped debris, your mind can finish the picture for you without your eyes having to stop and focus on the entire frame. See one or two cubes and it’s easy to fill in the mental blanks with the assumption that all of the wreckage is shaped similarly- And because it is, the viewer feels like they have seen the entire frame despite really only seeing a limited portion of it. So when movements become wild and frantic, like the whip motion used in Takashi Mitani’s cut, you don’t get lost or overwhelmed; you know exactly what’s going on and feel like you haven’t missed a beat.
The second crucial part of this is all Teruki. The tethered camera at 0:03 is important to note as follows Teruki’s flip backward in an almost calming arc and setting up for the impressive burst of motion at 0:08 which is the focal point of the cut. Teruki’s zig-zag moves from the upper-left to the lower right third of the screen, dodging attacks as they are hurled at him until he is caught and lashed from the lower-left third into the background of the upper-right. In the most basic cinematic language, the two motions run perpendicular to each other which establishes the dichotomy of success moving in one direction and failure in the other. All of this made possible by animated background underneath the character layer of animation, giving the sense of greater space being traversed.
With that being said, the rest of the episode was pretty lukewarm. But unlike episode 6, I don’t see this one building up to anything greater. Next episode is sure to have more fights and thus more to look at, but why not this one? Mob Psycho is a show that thrives off visuals, so to have an episode that ranks as average is a death blow, especially since the story is only average at best. The story isn;t bad, but there’s a lot of wiggle room for directors and animators, and I think that is what we’re all really wanting to see. And because of that, Mob Psycho is best viewed actively, combing over scenes and sakuga is really what the show is about.